A year before her death Princess Diana made a short visit to Alicante as she attempted to evade harassment from the British press.
She stayed for just the one night at the Sidi San Juan hotel having left London in a hurry, incognito and without an escort. She was only accompanied by her secretary, who remained at the terminal to pick up the suitcases as she tried to mislead journalists and photographers.
It was on May 3, 1996 when the ex-wife of The Prince of Wales arrived at El Altet airport at (.30 in the evening, on an Iberia flight from Heathrow.
Dressed in a dark jacket and covering her face with a cap as she tried to hide her face, Diana refused to use the VIP facility at Alicante-Elche airport as she was keen to get to her hotel as quickly as possible. The princess was accompanied by an executive from El Altet who took her to a taxi, thus misleading the airport security personnel and even the National Police escort which was waiting for her.
The taxi driver who drove Diana did not disclose the destination, alluding to professional ethics and confidentiality. However, colleagues who saw the driver on the Esplanade de Alicante ended up revealing her destination.
There was only one hotel in that area with 5 stars, befitting a member of the Royal Family, the Sidi San Juan. It was quickly besieged by British journalists who were looking to get a photograph of the princess, which at that time was the target of all the paparazzi, and of whom a stolen snapshot could be worth millions.
At first it was thought that Lady Di was visiting the Costa Blanca for a short holiday since it was not the first time she had travelled to Spain to rest. A year earlier, in 1995, she spent a few days in a private villa in the province of Malaga for the same reason. However, her spokeswoman, Jane Atkinson, clarified that her trip to Alicante was to visit “a friend.”
Close sources also suggested that it was someone who was ill, although the name of the person has never emerged.
The truth is that the short stay by the Princess was cut short by the media who practically “took” the Sidi San Juan hotel apart. Journalists and photographers from many different media outlets, such as Daily Mail, Weekly News and Mail on Sunday, as well as the Associated Press agencies in Madrid and Multi Studios, all travelled to the Alicante. Many of them even booked a room in the hotel posing as businessmen, athletes and company executives in an attempt to get a glimpse of Diana.
The room at the hotel in Playa de San Juan was booked until Monday, May 6, but the harassment that she got from the press made her decide to return to UK earlier than was planned. Indeed she only stayed for one night and on Saturday the 4th, the ex-wife of Prince Charles caught a plane to back to Heathrow wearing the same clothing in which she arrived: jeans, a white T-shirt and a navy blue jacket.
According to sources at the hotel, during her 18 hour stay, she remained in her suite, taking both dinner and breakfast with her secretary in an adjoining room although sources at the time claimed to see the princess taking a short walk along the Playa de San Juan in the morning. “She is very cute, much more so than in her photographs,” commented a tourist from Madrid speaking to the Spanish press.
The fleeting visit of Princess Diana caught even the managers of the 5-star hotel by surprise, as the reservation of the room had been made by phone and using an assumed name. And neither did the occupant of Room 6619 book any of the spa or beauty treatments that the complex offered at that time, although she did ask the reception manager to keep details of her visit private.